Barrett accepts one-year deal

Updated: December 21, 2003, 3:43 PM ET
Associated Press

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Cubs cleared up their logjam at catcher Sunday, signing Michael Barrett and then trading veteran Damian Miller and cash to the Oakland Athletics.

The deal ends a whirlwind week for Barrett, who was on three teams in six days. The Montreal Expos traded him to Oakland on Monday, and the A's turned around and shipped him to Chicago on Tuesday.

"We've always liked him," Cubs general manager Jim Hendry said. "Dick Pole was the pitching coach in Montreal in 2002, and Dick has spoken very highly of him."

Barrett, 27, made $2.6 million last season, a year in which he played only 70 games because of injuries. He was eligible for arbitration, but the Cubs wanted him to take a pay cut. He couldn't take more than a 20 percent reduction without first becoming a free agent, though.

So the Cubs didn't offer him a contract by Saturday night's deadline, making him a free agent, and he then signed a one-year deal for $1.55 million.

That left the Cubs with three catchers, and Paul Bako had reached agreement on a $865,000, one-year deal Friday. So Chicago sent Miller to Oakland along with $800,000 in cash.

The Cubs love the way Miller handled their young pitching staff. Pitchers had a 3.88 ERA in the 114 games he caught last year, and he had a .997 fielding percentage.

But he only hit .233 -- below his .262 career average -- and is due to make $3 million next season. He's also 35, and started only 24 games after the All-Star break because of a strained lower back.

Barrett is a solid defensive catcher who's shown some power. He's one of six NL catchers with at least 10 homers in each of the past two seasons. He only hit .208 last season, but spent most of the year on the disabled list with a strained hip and a broken left finger.

He made only one error in 68 games behind the plate, had a .998 fielding percentage and threw out 10 of 26 baserunners. He also caught four of Montreal's 10 shutouts.

Barrett is a career .253 hitter with 38 homers and 193 RBIs. His best year was in 2002, when he hit .263 with 20 doubles, 12 home runs and 49 RBIs. He had a five-RBI game April 8, then drove in six runs two days later.

Pitchers have a 4.33 ERA when he's behind the plate, and he's thrown out almost 22 percent of baserunners and has a .991 fielding percentage.

Originally drafted as a shortstop as the 28th overall pick in the 1995 amateur draft, he was converted to catcher in 1995. He's also played third base and first base.

"We still think he's got a lot of upside, and he's young," Hendry said. "Hopefully he'll blossom with where he was going after 2002."


Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press